Officers say collaboration needed to root out blight in once prosperous KC neighborhoods

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More than a thousand homes are slated for demolition in Kansas City. Vacant buildings are attracting crime, and according to residents, contributing to the downfall of their neighborhoods.

City leaders have said they're determined to get rid of blighted buildings; but with limited money, it's an uphill battle that affects everyone living nearby.

"It's sad because I know families that used to be here and it didn't look like this before," said Linda Caswell, who has lived in an East KC neighborhood since she was six years old.

The life-long resident said the boarded-up buildings range from single-family homes to entire apartment complexes.

"They've gone downhill," she said. "I've got a house rotting up the street from me that's been boarded up for 10 years."

KCMO police officers said the home can be a "welcome mat for crime," a problem they fight by regularly patrolling areas with decaying homes and working with property managers to reduce crime.

But officer said neighborhood associations must also do their part.

"Sometimes when you have a group or an organization that's stepping forward as a whole, versus just one individual person, some more things can get accomplished," said Jason Cooley, community interaction officer for the East Patrol Division.

But there's only so much residents can do to revitalize their neighborhoods, which is why city leaders got involved.

"We are focusing a lot of resources to try to tackle that problem," said Chris Hernandez, city spokesperson.

Hernandez said they've slated more than a thousand dilapidated homes for demolition, often in groups at a time.

"If there are several on the block, we take down that whole block at once so that way the entire neighborhood can be lifted up and get some improvement," he said.

Moving at a pace of 125 demolitions a year, it's an expensive process that's slow but steady in the midst of money shortfalls.

"There's no way to fix this overnight," Hernandez said.

It's a process Caswell hopes will transform the eyesores in her neighborhood from vacant to vibrant.

"Our whole neighborhood is going down and I want to see families again," she said.

Hernandez said as the economy continues to improve, he hopes to see more people buy and fix up the abandoned properties around town.

Until then, city leaders will continue to demolish dangerous homes one-by-one in an effort to curb crime and stabilize property values.